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This review is from: MDNA (Audio CD)
Every Madonna album is anticipated highly, but it would seem a particular lot is riding on "MDNA." It is her first album of original material in four years, marking the longest pause she has ever taken between studio albums, and the first to see release in the wake of the globe-saturating success of Lady Gaga, her frighteningly clear heir apparent. It also marks her debut on the Interscope/Live Nation imprint after a nearly 30-year tenure with Warner Bros., the label that launched her into the stratosphere.
If these facts have caused Madonna even the slightest hint of worry, "MDNA" shows none of it. Rather than sounding desperate for a hit or eager to prove she still reigns supreme of all divas, she is relaxed, adventurous and quite willing to take chances, like a tyke let loose in a toy shop. Even when the performances turn serious and clenched, it is only for the sake of the songs themselves. Where the results are not her usual musical candy corn, which is often, they are always intriguing. The lack of sweat on her brow makes it clear - why prove what has already been proven? There's only one Queen of Pop, and that's Madonna.
"MDNA" pulses with a high sonic energy which only somewhat belies the turmoil of the lyrics since the grooves are steely, not frenetic. Heartbreak, redemption and self-fulfillment are among the chief themes. This is miles away from the soft core porn of "Hard Candy" or the deliberately visceral "Confessions on a Dance Floor," which was less about depth than disco lights, and her most personal work since "Ray of Light." William Orbit, who honed much of that album, returns here.
Orbit not only bathes Madge in shimmering, atmospheric soundscapes, but clearly elicits her to mark new territory and self-efface. "I'm a Sinner" is exemplary with its chaotic world music beats, cheeky lyrics and modulated vocal technique, and the kick-ass "Some Girls" sounds both retro and futuristic with its sharp, swirling synths.
Benny Benassi places Madonna squarely on the dance floor with the monstrously hooky, hi-BPM, often lyrically oddball second single "Girl Gone Wild." "I'm Addicted," a zippy, unhinged dose of aggressive obsession, sounds like Kylie Minogue's "Rippin' Up the Disco."
Martin Solveig maximizes Madonna's commercial savvy without obscuring her idiosyncrasies. "Turn Up the Radio" brims with hit potential, yet takes no cues from younger, decidedly hipper chart busters. The syllable-bursting, high-tension "I Don't Give A" blasts through her own inner wall of anxiety and affirms the take-no-prisoners attitude that Madonna is well-known for. This is a woman who digs her heels in until she conquers.
Whether she's symbolically killing off ex-husband Guy Ritchie in the eerie, trip-hoppy "Gang Bang," crafting a spacious, meditative melodic hook with "Masterpiece," composing subtle re-writes of past tracks with the likes of "Love Spent" or baring her soul on the lonely, tortured, terribly icy "Fallin' Free," Madonna remains a compelling, vital and - above all - entertaining presence on "MDNA." It won't return her to the top of the singles charts again, but that does not matter. She has carved out a niche in the industry which suits her just fine, and "MDNA" caters to it without ever placing her too left of center, reaching out to satisfy listeners interested in what she has to offer beyond the hits.
*** Editorial Note: The untimely loss of some of our greatest cultural icons these past few years has been absolutely heartbreaking. However we feel about "MDNA," we should remember that we are lucky to still have Madonna here to entertain us.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 27, 2012 12:27:34 PM PDT
Douglas King says:
Very well written review. You have a nice writing style. I checked out some of your other reviews, you like a lot of the music I like.
Posted on Mar 28, 2012 2:00:35 PM PDT
N. Feria says:
You write in a very clear and accessible manner that respects and informs the reader.
Posted on Mar 30, 2012 12:06:27 PM PDT
J. Cino says:
excellent review, and your last point is the one I've been making for a while. Although what I love most about MDNA is that it offers me the chance to stop highlighting on what madonna *has done* to be able to be proud of what *she's doing.*
Posted on Apr 3, 2012 10:00:49 AM PDT
Arnold Mixon says:
Thank you for an excellent review. As a 50-something black male and devoted Madonna fan, I've been fighting feelings of depression over the loss of my personal music icons: Michael, Whitney, Tina Marie and gospel great Walter Hawkins. MDNA has proved to be the 'spiritual' lifting I needed to get out of my funk. Your final statement couldn't be truer. We should all be grateful we still have our Queen around !
Posted on Apr 9, 2012 4:56:57 AM PDT
I enjoyed reading your review. The final closing remarks to your review was well taken! BRAVO!
Posted on Apr 11, 2012 11:43:05 PM PDT
D.M. Cross says:
"Cultural icons"?? Holy cow, you swallowed the whole thing, hook, line and sinker. We'll send you to the head of the line at the fema camp!
Posted on Apr 13, 2012 9:35:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 13, 2012 9:36:25 PM PDT
P. Cappiello says:
I had to laugh when you said Lady Gaga was her heir apparent. Really? I don;t see that at all! LG really hasn't changed her style from Day 1! Madonna NEVER repeated herself, did she? Part of her appeal is the versatility she displays in each of her many incarnations, yet still remaining Madonna! Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Britney Spears or any of these others have failed to be any more than what they were when they started! This is an excellent album and she CONNECTS with today's styles very effectively YET she still infused originality, which is her trademark!
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2012 9:53:55 PM PDT
Rudy Palma says:
It's not an opinion. It's fact. Look at all the comparisons out there and ensuing discussions. It would have been irresponsible of me not to mention it in passing - it's a review.
Posted on Apr 17, 2012 6:57:09 AM PDT
Giannis Drakos says:
Very well written review, but you should have left Gaga out.
There is absolutely nothing that can name her the 'frightengly clear heir' of Madonna. The press baptise a new Queen of Pop every three months (when Madonna isn't around) and gaga's shock tactics are lame and all-too-soon forgotten (clearly, because they are only marketing fireworks and not part of a greater artistic masterplan as in Madonna's case)
I mean, let's face it: if anyone starts walking around wearing a cow, he/she will get noticed too. But this is neither justified as Art nor it will change anyone's life.
In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2012 11:12:45 PM PDT
Rudy Palma says:
Giannis, you're reading beyond what I wrote and so commenting on something I did not even say. My review merely acknowledges Gaga's looming presence and being the "heir apparent." I chose those words carefully, yet you only selectively quoted them. Madonna has been asked about comparisons between her and Gaga in major news media; I am hardly saying anything new.
The tactics Gaga borrows from the Madonna archives have elicited much talk, and in that light this discussion is complimentary toward Madonna, as was my point was that Madonna is not of a mind to compete or keep up with those grasping for her throne.
I for one am thrilled this album sounds so sharp. All of the young ones who have been listening to Gaga and have little to no knowledge of Madonna now have the option to hear some new Madonna tracks and decide for themselves how much their current hit-making idol adopted from the Queen of Pop.
There is only one original.